Wednesday, November 16, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov 16: Saylor to Head House Appropriations; no House Ed Committee Chair Replacement Named Yet

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov 16, 2016
Saylor to Head House Appropriations; no House Ed Committee Chair Replacement Named Yet

Regional Basic Education Funding Formula Workshops
PASA, PSBA, PAIU, PARSS, the PA Principals Association and PASBO are traveling around the state to conduct regional workshops for school leaders to provide them with more information on the new basic education funding formula. Register below to attend a regional workshop to learn more about the new formula and what it means for your school district and for the state. Please note that capacity is limited at each location and registration is required. A webcast option is also available. These regional workshops are being supported by a grant from the William Penn Foundation.
Tuesday, November 29, 2016 @ 9:00 am: Luzerne IU 18
(368 Tioga Ave, Kingston, PA 18704)
Tuesday, December 6, 2016 @ 6:00 pm: Chester County IU 24
(455 Boot Road, Downingtown, PA 19335)
Wednesday, November 16, 2016 @ 9:30 am: Webcast

“Saylor was first elected to represent a rural and suburban district in 1992. He has served as whip and most recently chaired the Education Committee.”
House Republicans pick Saylor to chair Appropriations panel
AP By MARK SCOLFORO November 15, 2016
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - House Republicans on Tuesday put a veteran lawmaker from York County at the head of the powerful Appropriations Committee, which plays a leading role in crafting Pennsylvania's annual state budget.  GOP state representatives voted behind closed doors to make Rep. Stan Saylor chairman of Appropriations, a spot that opened up with the retirement of Rep. Bill Adolph from Delaware County.

“The full House will vote on the position in January.  The Senate will hold internal caucus elections Wednesday.  The next session officially starts Dec. 1, and members will be sworn in Jan. 3.”
Most state House leadership retained
BY THE TRIBUNE-REVIEW | Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016, 5:18 p.m.
House Democrats gave a vote of confidence Tuesday to their current leadership team, despite losses at the ballot box last week that have led to larger Republican majorities in the General Assembly.  Rep. Frank Dermody, D-Oakmont, will continue as House Democratic leader, where he'll lead the party's smallest group since the late 1950s. Republicans will hold a 122-81 seat majority in the House.  Local officials Rep. Joseph Markosek, D-Monroevillle, ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, and Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Squirrel Hill, caucus chairman, both retained their posts.  There was little change to top-tier House Republican leadership. Republicans re-elected House Majority Leader Rep. Dave Reed, R-Indiana County, and others to their current leadership spots.  The caucus tapped Rep. Stan Saylor, R-York County, to fill the vacant chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee.  They also nominated Rep. Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, for another term as House speaker.

State's fiscal picture stays gloomy, according to Independent Fiscal Office report
Penn Live By Charles Thompson | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on November 15, 2016 at 6:29 PM, updated November 15, 2016 at 9:06 PM
State government in Pennsylvania seems a lot like those anxiety-filled voters who called for change in last week's election: Though we're all told we're supposed to be living in an improved economy, the ledgers here don't really look any better.  And, a new mid-year report on the state's fiscal situation states, that's even after lawmakers and Gov. Tom Wolf adopted some $1.1 billion in new taxes and other revenue raisers earlier this year.  The Independent Fiscal Office also forecasts that by 2021, because of an unending treadmill of higher human services costs, pension obligations and Medicaid expansion, the state will be staring at - based on current programs, services and tax rates - a $3 billion, yearly budget deficit.

IFO Five-Year Outlook report projects imbalance of over $500 million in current fiscal year.
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Independent Fiscal Office Report November 2016

Shift in Federal Ed Priorities Worries Advocates
Public News Service by Susan Spicka November 15. 2016
HARRISBURG, Pa. – The coming administration in Washington, D. C., may redirect billions of dollars of federal funding to charter and private schools, and that has public education advocates concerned.  Donald Trump's transition leader for education, Gerard Robinson, said under the Trump presidency, federal education priorities will focus on entrepreneurship and private-school options.   According to Susan Spicka, executive director of Education Voters of Pennsylvania, that would be bad news for the state's public schools.  "It means that our local school districts will see a big cut in federal funding, and in order to make up for this cut, they're going to be forced to raise taxes on the local level or cut programs and services," she explained.  Republicans in Congress have said proposed regulations on the distribution of federal education funding are too restrictive.  Spending priorities are not the only changes on the way. Robinson also indicated that the Trump administration could significantly limit the Education Department's Office of Civil Rights. Spicka said that means students who experience discrimination may have no remedy.  "If a school district doesn't enroll any minority students in gifted or AP programs, that would continue," she said. "If a school district suspended students with disabilities or minorities at a higher rate, that would just go unchecked."

Pine-Richland asks judge to dismiss bathroom policy lawsuit
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette November 16, 2016 12:13 AM
Pine-Richland High School has 10 unisex bathrooms that anyone can use, including three transgender students who say the district is breaking the law by not letting them use the male or female restrooms they want to use.  That’s what the school district said in asking a federal judge to throw out a discrimination suit brought by the students last month.  Transgender students had previously been allowed to use the restrooms that conformed to their gender identities. But the school board voted Sept. 12 to change the policy so that students must use the restrooms and locker rooms meant for their biological sex, regardless of what they consider themselves.

Pennsylvania STEM programs recognized at White House
York Dispatch by Alyssa Pressler , 505-5438/@AlyssaPressYD12:53 p.m. EST Nov 14, 2016
Pennsylvania STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs were recognized at the White House Symposium on State Implementation of Computer Science for All on Oct. 28 by the U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith.  Smith said at the event that the state has accelerated opportunities for students and families with its focus on STEM and computer science education. When Gov. Tom Wolf took office he made it a goal to increase the number of students enrolled in STEM specific majors in state universities by 10,000 in the next several years.

Editorial: Unions' campaign cash: Paying the freight
BY THE TRIBUNE-REVIEW | Monday, Nov. 14, 2016, 9:00 p.m.
Public-sector unions spent nearly $8 million on Pennsylvania races decided Nov. 8 — and while they're free to do so, the way these unions accumulate such money continues to stick in taxpayers' craws.  That spending total is based on the latest pre-election campaign finance reports. It comes via the Commonwealth Foundation, where Elizabeth Stelle, director of policy analysis, sums up the problem: “This political money is collected and sent to government unions using publicly funded payroll systems.”  Unsurprisingly, government-union PACs' top 10 recipients were all Democrats. Topping the list was Katie McGinty, who lost narrowly to Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey despite benefiting from more than $4.4 million in such spending. These union PACs also spent $216,000-plus in support of Josh Shapiro, attorney general-elect, and $113,000-plus in support of re-elected Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.  The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees spent the most, almost $3 million, followed by the Service Employees International Union at about $1.6 million and the Pennsylvania State Education Association at nearly $1.4 million.

Teachers' Unions Spend Big, Reap Little in Elections
Education Week By Daarel Burnette II November 15, 2016
Over the last eight years, Republican-dominated statehouses and a White House bent on accountability dealt teachers' unions a wave of setbacks on their key issues, whittling away at bargaining rights, instituting merit pay, expanding charter school and choice programs, and making budget cuts leading to teacher layoffs.  So this campaign season, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association bolted out the gate early with presidential endorsements, a flood of campaign spending on high-priority races and ballot measures, and plenty of organizational muscle to push their agendas.  But with a few notable exceptions, they came up dry.

Scranton schools budget faces $17m shortfall
The Scranton School District must close a $17 million budget gap by the end of the year.
School directors received their first look at the preliminary 2017 budget Tuesday night — a spending plan with a deficit caused largely by increases in health care and state-mandated pension costs and the reliance on one-time revenue sources to balance previous budgets.
“We know we have a lot of work to do in the next month,” board President Bob Sheridan said at the budget and finance committee meeting. “We’ve got to tighten our belts and pull our belts together.”  The board does not want to impact students, employees or programs, he said.  Projected budgets in Scranton always include “wish list” items from principals and department heads, and officials work over the course of a month to reduce expenditures and find additional revenue sources. However, with the 2016 budget relying on $12.5 million in borrowed money, the task to balance the 2017 budget may be even greater. Few one-time revenue sources remain.

Teachers strike averted in Greensburg Salem School District; schools open
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette November 16, 2016 6:11 AM
A strike has been averted in the Greensburg Salem School District.  Contract negotiations between the district and Greensburg Salem Education Association went late into the night Tuesday, and then early this morning the district announced that a tentative agreement had been reached between the teachers and the Westmoreland County district.  Details of the agreement were not immediately released.  District officials said the schools will follow their regular schedule.  Last week, superintendent Eileen Amato wrote in an email, “I am very optimistic that both sides will work to reach an agreement.”  Matthew Sofran, president of the Greensburg Salem Education Association, which represents about 200 teachers, said the union and the district signed a one-year contract in 2015 but had failed to reach an agreement on salaries and benefits since negotiations for a new contract began in June.

Our view: Erie schools need lasting fix from Harrisburg
Go Erie Editorial November 16, 2016 Posted at 2:01 AM
The Erie School District was only able to balance its 2016-17 budget when the state coughed up $4 million in emergency funding.  That one-time fix will run its course by the end of the district's fiscal year. The emergency will still be there.  That has schools Superintendent Jay Badams and his team preparing once again to lay out the district's structural financial crisis and, absent some sort of state bailout, the grim options for addressing it. The district is working with the state's financial adviser, Public Financial Management Inc., which has confirmed the district's bleak analysis of its plight.  In addition to making a strong financial case that Pennsylvania's inequitable system of funding has set up Erie's schools to fail, Badams makes a compelling moral case as well. The financial straits of Erie's school system combined with its at-risk student population mean allocating the fewest resources for the children who need them most.  "Erie students are getting a lot less ... than other kids right here in our own community. How can we tolerate that?" Badams said Thursday in a meeting with the Erie Times-News Editorial Board.  That lot less takes a variety of forms — crumbling buildings, outdated textbooks, anemic libraries, educational cuts. And there's no realistic scenario for arresting that trend, let alone reversing it, amid current state funding conditions and the decline in the city of Erie's tax base.

Erie board vote will affect Collegiate charter move
By Ed Palattella Erie Times-News November 16, 2016 Posted at 2:00 AM
Parents pledge to pull application if high school stays open
The immediate future of Erie's Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy is likely to be resolved on Wednesday night.  So is the immediate future of the Erie School District's three other high schools.  The Erie School Board is set to approve a resolution that would prohibit the closing of any district high school in the coming school year. The measure would also discourage the closing of any district high school in the near future as the district struggles to resolve its budget crisis.  The resolution, if passed, would lead to the withdrawal of an application to make Collegiate Academy a charter school, according to a letter a group of Collegiate Academy parents filed with the application on Tuesday.  "In the event the Board passes a resolution clearly stating that Collegiate Academy will remain operational for the 2017-2018 academic year, we will voluntarily withdraw the application," according to the letter.  Passage of the resolution would also secure the immediate existence of East High School, Central Career & Technical School and Strong Vincent High School.

“PA Cyber’s business practices and educational outcomes have drawn scrutiny during the last few years. The charter’s founder and former CEO, Nick Trombetta, pleaded guilty in August to tax conspiracy -- one of 11 charges leveled against him in 2013. Critics called attention to the charter’s poor test performance and questioned its relationship with the National Network of Digital Schools, now renamed Lincoln Learning Solutions, an independent curriculum provider affiliated with the publicly funded online school.  The charter has overcome most of the controversy -- its enrollment and test scores have both increased this year -- and Hayden said he plans to ensure that the negative publicity remains in the past.”
PA Cyber board president to take over as CEO
Beaver County Times By Katherine Schaeffer
MIDLAND -- Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School's board of trustees has hired a new chief executive officer -- and it turns out, it didn't need to look very far.   The Midland-based charter’s board announced Tuesday that former board President Brian Hayden will take over as CEO, beginning Jan. 3.  The board’s CEO search subcommittee, comprising board members Edward Elder, Judy Garbinski and Phillip Tridico, reviewed about a dozen resumes including Hayden's, and it conducted four face-to-face interviews prior to recommending Hayden for the position.
The board hired Hayden during a special meeting Monday night.

Collegium Charter CEO takes seat on group’s board
Daily Local POSTED: 11/15/16, 5:04 PM EST | UPDATED: 9 HRS AGO
The Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools announced the appointment of Antoinette Rath as the coalition’s new Board of Trustees president.  Rath is the CEO of Collegium Charter School in Exton, a free public charter school for students in grades K-12 in Chester County.  he former superintendent for the Mount Laurel (N.J.) Board of Education recently moved to Pennsylvania to join the administrative team of Collegium. As a graduate of West Chester and Widener universities, Rath has over a decade of educational experience. In 2014, she was the recipient of the Burlington County Council of Women “Woman of the Year” and the Burlington County “Superintendent of the Year” awards.  “I am thrilled to be a part of the charter movement in Pennsylvania,” said Rath. “As the Board of Trustees president I am honored to advocate for charter education that benefits the 135,000 of children in our state who believe in and deserve school choice.”

“The SRC also voted to permanently close the struggling World Communications Charter School at the end of the school year. The school, one of the four original charters opened in Philadelphia in 1997, has chosen to forgo appeals.  The school, officials say, has low test scores, declining graduation rates, and other problems.”
At her first meeting as SRC's new chair, Wilkerson gets an earful about Philly schools
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer Updated: NOVEMBER 16, 2016 1:08 AM EST
At her first meeting as chair of the School Reform Commission on Tuesday night, Joyce Wilkerson got an earful.  Consider the testimony of Antoine Little Jr., a Philadelphia School District parent unsatisfied with the system's plan to revamp 11 schools. He was one of 48 members of the public who signed up to speak on topics ranging from reopening a closed South Philadelphia school to awarding a contract for janitorial services at 18 high schools.  "Ms. Wilkerson, we are glad you have joined the SRC, but we want our schools back," Little said. "We look forward to the day when you as the chair call for a vote to abolish the SRC. Enough is enough."  Wilkerson, whom Mayor Kenney recently selected for the SRC and Gov. Wolf made the chair, has a long history of public service, working as a top aide to then-Mayor John F. Street. She now works as an official at Temple University.

Philly SRC greets new era with Wilkerson as chair
Under the gavel of a new chairperson, Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission considered much but did little at its November meeting Tuesday night.  The convening was Joyce Wilkerson’s first as chair of the five-member body. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney appointed Wilkerson the SRC earlier this month. She was soon thereafter named chair by Gov. Tom Wolf.  Wilkerson started the meeting with a brief statement in which she emphasized the importance of working across different levels of government. The SRC is split between appointees of the mayor and the governor, and it struggles, at times, to reach consensus on major issues  “I recognize the importance of partnering with both the city, the state, and hopefully the federal government as we begin to better align services and coordinate strategies to improve the outcomes for our children,” Wilkerson said. “I believe that we speak loudest and are most effective when we’re work collaboratively to advance these goals.”

Philly District speeds up timetable for testing lead levels in school water
The notebook by Greg Windle November 15, 2016 — 5:03pm
After a prolonged push from advocates, activists, and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, the District announced today that it will accelerate the process of testing the lead level of each drinking water outlet in every school and will modify its testing methods. The testing will be completed in June 2017, taking less than a year instead of 18 months as originally planned.  The District plans to retest the drinking water every four years.  “Testing for lead concentration, installing hydration stations, and promoting education on healthy lifestyles continue to remain key aspects of our plan,” said District Chief Operating Officer Fran Burns. “As part of that commitment, we are not only dramatically accelerating our water-testing timeline, but expanding our lead water testing to add additional outlets throughout schools, including nurse’s offices and cold water kitchen sinks.”

Simms ethics complaint dismissed for 'lack of evidence'
The School Reform Commission member's actions in a vote about Wister Elementary were not a conflict of interest, state officials ruled.
The notebook by Bill Hangley Jr. November 15, 2016 — 8:30am
State officials have dismissed an ethics complaint against School Reform Commissioner Sylvia Simms that alleged a conflict of interest after they found “insufficient evidence” to justify launching a full-scale investigation.  The complaint, submitted in the spring by Germantown activist and Democratic ward leader Greg Paulmier, alleged that Simms should have recused herself from votes involving the charter transformation of Wister Elementary in Germantown, which is now being managed by Mastery Charter Schools.  Critics alleged that Simms’ sister, veteran community advocate Quibila Divine, stood to gain from the Mastery takeover, based on her employment with a public relations firm that once did work for Mastery.   However, in a letter sent to Simms on Oct. 24, Robert Caruso of the State Ethics Commission wrote that a preliminary investigation found “insufficient evidence to support a finding of probable cause that the State Ethics Act had been violated.”

Judge to hear sanctions request in Philly schools' $7.5 million camera case
Inquirer by Martha Woodall, Staff Writer Updated: NOVEMBER 16, 2016 — 1:08 AM EST
A federal judge will consider Wednesday whether to impose sanctions on former Philadelphia School District officials and the firm that represents them in a lawsuit over a $7.5 million no-bid contract for security cameras that was awarded to a small minority firm in 2010.  Attorneys for John L. Byars, a former district procurement director, asked U.S. District Judge Mitchell S. Goldberg to sanction the officials and the Tucker Law Group LLC for failing to provide documents for Byars' civil rights and defamation suit in a timely matter.  Clifford E. Haines, Byars' attorney, alleges that the Tucker firm engaged in "willful misconduct."  In documents filed late last month, he asked the judge to rule in favor of his client and require the Tucker firm to compensate Byars' lawyers for their efforts "to correct the harm" caused by the firm's conduct.

How Discrimination Shapes Parent-Teacher Communication
A new study suggests race and immigrant status are determining factors in whether or not an educator will reach out to a student’s family.
The Atlantic by MELINDA D. ANDERSON  NOV 15, 2016
Growing up in Columbia, Maryland, Hua-Yu Sebastian Cherng was a self-described troublemaker in grade school. He even got sent to the principal’s office once for in-class misbehavior. But none of his teachers ever called his parents about his school misconduct. In fact, throughout his K-12 schooling, Cherng can’t recall once when a school staffer reached out to his parents. Meanwhile, even though it was customary in high school for the counselor to personally congratulate parents of students who gained early admission to college, his name was left off the call list. And when he complained to his chemistry teacher about the oversight, his comment was met with: “It's not that big of a surprise that you got accepted [to MIT].”  Now a sociologist and an assistant professor of education at New York University’s Steinhardt school, Cherng’s latest study parallels his childhood experience by exploring an under-researched topic in parent-involvement literature: the role that students’ race and country of birth play in a teacher’s likelihood of contacting their parents or guardians. Relying on a sample of about 10,000 predominantly public high-school sophomores, their parents, and teachers from the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002—a nationwide sampling conducted by the U.S. Department of Education—Cherng’s statistical analysis found sharp contrasts in how math and English teachers communicate with parents from different racial, ethnic, and immigrant backgrounds, reflecting many existing stereotypes of black, Latino, and Asian American students.

Giuliani: Trump presidency will be ‘best thing’ for charter schools
New York Post By Carl Campanile November 14, 2016 | 3:08am
Donald Trump’s election as president will provide a boost to charter schools, a top adviser told The Post.  “President-elect Trump is going to be the best thing that ever happened for school choice and the charter school movement,” said Rudy Giuliani, a vice chairman of Trump’s transition team said.  “We’ve spoken about it. Donald is going to create incentives for that promote and open more charter schools. It’s a priority,” said Giuliani, who promoted charter schools and providing private school options to low-income students when he was New York City mayor.  During the campaign, Trump proposed a $20 billion federal block grant for states to use to provide school choice to 11 million students living in poverty.

the seventh son - mose allison - prestige 1958
Mose Allison, jazz-blues musician, dead at 89
YouTube runtime 2:39

Regional Basic Education Funding Formula Workshops
PASA, PSBA, PAIU, PARSS, the PA Principals Association and PASBO are traveling around the state to conduct regional workshops for school leaders to provide them with more information on the new basic education funding formula. Register below to attend one of 8 regional workshops to learn more about the new formula and what it means for your school district and for the state. Please note that capacity is limited at each location and registration is required. A webcast option is also available. These regional workshops are being supported by a grant from the William Penn Foundation.
Tuesday, November 29, 2016 @ 9:00 am: Luzerne IU 18
(368 Tioga Ave, Kingston, PA 18704)
Tuesday, December 6, 2016 @ 6:00 pm: Chester County IU 24
(455 Boot Road, Downingtown, PA 19335)
Wednesday, November 16, 2016 @ 9:30 am: Webcast

Public Forum: Who should run Philadelphia's schools? Thursday, Dec. 8, 6-7:30 p.m. Drexel University - Behrakis Grand Hall
Join us for a public forum featuring state, city and civic leaders sponsored by Philadelphia Media Network, the Philadelphia Public School Notebook and Drexel University's School of Education.
Creese Student Center 3210 Chestnut St. Philadelphia, PA 19104
It's been 15 years since the state took control of Philadelphia's schools and created the School Reform Commission. Since then, the SRC has been a polarizing presence in the city.
With the recent resignation of two members of the commission and the term of a third expiring soon, the future of the SRC and the issue of school governance is once again at the forefront of the civic dialogue. Is the SRC the only model to consider?  Should Philadelphia create an elected school board, or should the governing body be controlled by the Mayor? Are there models in other cities that could help us rethink our own school governance?   The Philadelphia Public School Notebook, Philadelphia Media Network -- owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and, and Drexel University's School of Education are hosting a public forum on this critical issue.
RSVP - Admission is free, but you must register in advance. Register now, and find out more about the panelists and other details at our registration page.
NSBA Advocacy Institute 2017 -- Jan. 29-31, Washington, D.C.
Join school directors around the country at the conference designed to give you the tools to advocate successfully on behalf of public education.
  • NSBA will help you develop a winning advocacy strategy to help you in Washington, D.C. and at home.
  • Attend timely and topical breakout sessions lead by NSBA’s knowledgeable staff and outside experts.
  • Expand your advocacy network by swapping best practices, challenges, and successes with other school board members from across the country.
This event is open to members of the Federal Relations Network. To find out how you can join, contact Learn more about the Advocacy Institute at

Register now for the 2017 NSBA Annual Conference 
Plan to join public education leaders for networking and learning at the 2017 NSBA Annual Conference, March 25-27 in Denver, CO. General registration is now open at A conference schedule, including pre-conference workshops, is available on the NSBA website.

SAVE THE DATE LWVPA Convention 2017 June 1-4, 2017
Join the League of Women Voters of PA for our 2017 Biennial Convention at the beautiful Inn at Pocono Manor!

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